The new Life Time athletic club in Chappaqua is a smaller, more boutique concept for the Minnesota fitness company, but it’s important to keep in mind that those terms are relative.
Westchester County residents know Life Time for its massive 206,000-square-foot brick box athletic center in Harrison, home to indoor and outdoor swimming pools and 10 tennis courts. That location dwarfs the 40,000-square-foot northern Westchester club Life Time opened in February at Chappaqua Crossing, formerly the Reader’s Digest headquarters. But if you haven’t seen the Harrison location, or the majority of the company’s 138 fitness centers, the new location at 480 Bedford Road certainly wouldn’t appear all that small.
“We’re used to 200,000-plus square feet: tennis courts, squash courts, outdoor water parks, rock climbing walls, basketball courts. Just a really big, grand scale,” said Michael Spiegel, the general manager of the Chappaqua location. “Here, we still are very spacious. We still have that resort feel, but we pared it down.”
The club features a health-focused café, kids academy, spa and salon and locker rooms with whirlpools, saunas and steam rooms.
Life Time employees don’t care for the term “gym.” Life Time is a fitness club, a resort by some descriptions. It may even be the modern-day country club, with barbells and Zumba replacing putters and tee times.
Spiegel said the terms are important for building the culture the company wants for its locations. The club doesn’t have 200 employees. It has 200 team members. They are expected to greet guests with a smile and regulars by name.
“We want to leave people feeling that I just had an experience. It wasn’t just a class that I took. It was an experience,” Spiegel said.
The intimacy of the space is part of the pitch from Life Time. The company rarely goes small. Its Manhattan club tops 70,000 square feet.
The Chappaqua space marks the second Westchester club for the company. The Harrison location is often described as one of the top performing throughout the company. Spiegel said the center has checked in 3,000 guests on peak days.
Life Time can offer what any business or landlord desires: foot traffic. That will be especially important as the company, already reporting more than $1 billion in yearly revenue, attempts to expand its focus. A $4 billion transaction took Life Time private in 2015. Since then, Life Time has dropped the “Fitness” from its name and is breaking into other types of commercial real estate. The company opened a co-working space last spring near one of its fitness clubs in suburban Philadelphia, and offers health care services such as physical therapy at some of its other locations. Branded apartments may be on the way as well.
Spiegel joined the company in the summer of 2018, brought on to launch and lead the Chappaqua location. He was previously east coast regional director of fitness for Crunch Fitness, managing 30 clubs from Buffalo to Miami. After nearly a dozen phone interviews and five more interviews in person in Minnesota, Spiegel landed his current job.
“I’m living as a general manager but also as a member,” Spiegel said. “Our team members are all members, so we keep that point of view. And we’re a picky group.”
Spiegel, from the Philadelphia suburbs, launched his career in the fitness business as a personal trainer in 2008. He is also a trained jazz guitarist with a degree from the New School, and a former New York Daily News Golden Gloves champion in the light heavyweight division, winning at Madison Square Garden in 2010.
He hasn’t stepped into a boxing ring for years, but still owns a collection of guitars and plays daily.
Life Time joins Whole Foods as the two anchor tenants for Chappaqua Crossing, which has been in some form of development for more than a decade by Summit/Greenfield Partners, a joint venture of two Fairfield County firms. The 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods opened in December, around the same time as a Chase bank and Pet Valu store.
The site also hosts about 500,000 square feet of office space, which includes a 35,000-square-foot office for Northern Westchester Hospital and 45,000 square feet for the CareMount Medical doctors group. Last June, residents moved into 64 apartments built by Wilder Balter in the iconic cupola building on the property that formerly hosted top executives from Reader’s Digest.
Some Life Time employees live in the apartments.
“If you go to Whole Foods, it is very likely you will be a Life Time member,” Spiegel said.